My new Greenling #LocalBox arrived--though I'm not done with the sweet potatoes from 2 weeks ago yet--but because of the recent consciousness-raising dinner via Outstanding in the Field, held this year out at Austin's Urban Roots, I'll be darned if I throw away any of these unconsumed veggies. I will--repeat--I will figure out an efficient way for my tiny family of two (2) to consume all of those sweet potatoes.
Outstanding in the Field is dedicated to hosting "Farm Dinners' In gorgeous settings, with local chefs and local local produce, thus connecting dining folk to the land, and making us think thrice about where food comes from and the people who are out working hard, in a field, to get it to us. Like last year, I came away from this year's farm dinner recommitted to sustainability, emotionally and financially.
Urban Roots uses sustainable agriculture to transform the lives of young people and increase access to healthy food in Austin. Founded in 2007 as a program of YouthLaunch, Urban Roots has transitioned to become an independent non-profit agency in the fall of 2011.
Urban Roots provides paid internships to Austin youth, age 14-17, to work on our 3.5 acre urban sustainable farm in East Austin. Each year, we have a goal of growing 30,000 pounds of produce with the Urban Roots community of youth, community volunteers, and staff. We donate 40% of our harvest to local soup kitchens and food pantries and sell the other 60% at farmers’ markets, through our Community Supported Agriculture Program, and wholesale.
After an array of passed appetizers (the homemade pretzel bread sticks and spicy cayenne-flecked mustard being our favorite) we got a tour of the farm. We heard young Joe here talk about his many hot days in the field. We learned how they decide what to plant, what makes the most money, what life lessons the kids learn from getting out there and living la vida agricultural. Most interesting factoid: okra is a pain in the butt to harvest. I still have fresh okra in my fridge from the Greenling #LocalBox a while back. Now I think to myself: "I don't care how much I do not feel like making gumbo: if Joe can work hard out there in the field to harvest okra, well, by golly, I will consume it."
There's Joe, one of the young promising leaders of the kids out at Urban Roots, in the Urban Roots t-shirt. We asked him if there were other programs like this one anywhere else in the US. He said yes. In NOLA, they have a "youth farm" program called "Grow Dat."
I did the tour armed with my second glass of a cold lager. Oh, what was it called: it was this: a pale lager, "The One They Call Zoe." Crazy about this stuff. They describe it as "based on pale and vienna malts, light to golden in color with a beautiful white layer of foam that rests atop the beer, constantly delivering floral and citrus dry hop aromatics with every sip."
I thought, back then, early in the day: "With beer (lager, whatever) this good, and served in a wine glass no less, who needs wine?" There was plenty of wine later on. And apparently I did need some of it.
Mark was manning the bread oven. There will soon be this fine array of bread available for everyone else, so I seem to recall hearing, as part of the grand opening of Odd Duck at its brick and mortar reincarnation.
One last look at The Table, in its lovely setting, before we all would descend upon it.
As the tour was over, and we were summoned to head over to the table, I was delighted to see placed on the table, on each of the tables joined together, Mark's bread.
We settled in. All that walking around in a field drinking a nice cold lager can really make you work up an appetite. We polished off our loaf of bread in about 32 seconds, along with the plate of sultry salty butter. For the next 1.8 hours, I would glance every now and then at the group of people at the table next to us.
"Why do they have bread left? Who doesn't finish the bread? How could you stop yourself from eating this bread? Who ARE these people?"
I composed myself. I forced myself to look away from their half loaf of crusty bread, sitting there, alone, ignored, unloved, on the table next to me.
A beautiful large platter of our first course arrived.
This was the "Lightsey Farms field pea hummus...Pure Luck goat feta, okra...Urban Roots squash, eggplant & crispy Texas rice."
And then our kind server was nice enough to say we looked like a fun bunch and proceeded to give us some healthy pours: some Argus Cidery Idalou Brut was up first, and then a 2011 Duchman Family Winery Viognier (Texas wine). This was may been more of that delightful pale lager though.
There was another dish that came and went, as in it was devoured. It was "Bandera quail stuffed with dirty rice...Top of Texas apples, cedar." Lovely. But those little bird legs were gone in no time.
The star of the show was about to arrive: the smoked Windy Hill goat. But just before that was a platter of huge slices of "butternut squash, mesquite granola, yogurt." With those lovely grill marks, the smoke of the grill, the sweetness of the squash, we could not hold back. Our server urged us to wait just 3 minutes to pair the squash with the goat. We couldn't do it.
The large shallow bowl of smoked goat brisket arrives. The goat heart is pointed out to us. I served myself a little bit of both.
We also finally scored the bread on the table next to us. They still had not eaten it. We adopted it. Gave it a good home at our table.
Thankfully, dessert was petite. It was "Swede Farm goat's milk panna cotta...sorghum, pecan streusel, pumpkin ganache." That had Barley Swine written all over it. And no wonder, thanks to Barley Swine's Bryce Gilmore doing all the culinary magic out there in the field.
And then, they - we - were done.
Thankfully (for us), Allison's spouse spent most of the time out standing in the field (that one never gets old with us), on the phone for work stuff. He missed/avoided/ducked/ignored gracefully all our drinking antics and drove us all safely home.